Hanif Kureishi: ‘Every 10 years you become someone else’

Robert McCrum in The Guardian:

Hanif-at-home-001The first time I met Hanif Kureishi it was the mid-80s, and we talked about writing fiction for Faber and Faber whose list I was directing. Kureishi came into my office like a rock star and I remember thinking that he did not seem in need of a career move. He was already riding high on the international success of his screenplay, My Beautiful Laundrette.

…His new novel, however, The Last Word, returns him to his personal hinterland. Mamoon Azam is an eminent novelist who has authorised an ambitious younger writer, Harry Johnson, to undertake his biography, in the hope that it will rescue his career and reputation. The idea that the end of a life is as interesting as its beginning is a fruitful one, with echoes of the relationship between VS Naipaul and his biographer Patrick French. But, at heart, it's really a commentary on the complicated inner turmoil of Kureishi's own career. As usual, the epigrammatic Kureishi has a good line in good lines. There are sharp asides about England, (a “wilderness of monkeys”), and art (“anything good has to be a little pornographic”), with references to Orwell, Johnny Rotten and Wodehouse. Mamoon is an engaging monster, drawn from Kureishi's grandfather, but also an idealisation of Kureishi's alter ego, an internationally respected literary man. The closing lines of the novel tell us all we need to know about Kureishi's current self-image: “He'd been a writer, a maker of worlds, a teller of important truths. This was a way of changing things, of living well, and creating freedom.”

More here.